Alonso excited to step outside comfort zone

Date published: January 2 2018

As he prepares to compete in his maiden Daytona 24 Hours, Fernando Alonso says participating in series outside Formula 1 will help him to become a better driver.

After taking part in the Indianapolis 500 with McLaren-Andretti last year, the two-time F1 World Champion will return to the States this year as he has entered the Rolex 24 Hours with United Autosports.

The Spaniard will kick off his preparations for the race in earnest this week as he get some laps under his belt in the United Autosports Ligier JS P217 at the ROAR ahead of the 24 official test.

Alonso says he cannot wait to “drive on the famous” Daytona International Speedway.

“It’s a true pleasure to go back racing in the States, in front of the US fans,” he said. “In less than a year I will have competed in two legendary races, which makes me very proud.

“I have always wanted to challenge myself in other categories of motorsport, as this is what you need to become a better driver. Going out of my comfort zone by taking part in such an iconic race as the Daytona 24 Hours is just amazing.”

He added: “I am looking forward to racing for United Autosports, the reigning European LMP3 Champions.

“At the test we had in Spain in November, everyone made me feel extremely welcome and part of the family and I’m happy to be spending more time with the team and my team-mates in a few days, at the ROAR.

“I just cannot wait to jump in the car again and drive on the famous oval.

“In the last couple of months I have been spending time watching several Daytona 24 Hours, which made me even keener to go out there and try myself. It’s going to be fun!”

Boullier: Alonso felt humiliated by Honda woes

Date published: December 27 2017

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier says Fernando Alonso felt “sad, humiliated and frustrated” when he it became clear that Honda’s engine performance deteriorated over the winter.

The Japanese manufacturer returned as McLaren’s power unit supplier in 2015, but instead of challenging for titles and podiums, they found themselves at the back of the grid.

After they showed some improvement in 2016, there were high hopes that they would take another major step forward this year, but it wasn’t to be as both Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne suffered a string of retirements.

“As a competitor, he is making his mental preparation over the winter,” Boullier told Autosport.

“And he is drawing in his head how the season should be, and that even motivates him more because he tries to stick to his own goals.

“So turning up in Barcelona, and having been backwards in terms of engine performance, it is a mix of sadness, humiliation and frustration. It is not good.”

McLaren will use Renault engines next year and Boullier is confident the Spaniard will strive to make the team competitive again.

“I always compare him to a shark. When he can sense the blood, he goes straight there,” he said.

“And that is why if he feels he can be on the podium or competitive enough to be there, he will not give up one inch to anybody.

“So the pressure on the team will be there but it is a good pressure.”

Chilton: Alonso did a ‘big favour’ for IndyCar

Date published: December 19 2017

Former F1 driver Max Chilton believes Fernando Alonso’s 2017 Indianapolis 500 stint gave the IndyCar Series a boost, but admits it was “good” that he didn’t win.

Two-time Formula 1 champion Alonso missed this year’s Monaco Grand Prix as he drove for Andretti Autosport in a McLaren-branded car at the Indy 500.

The Spaniard led for 27 laps, but he was forced to retire while he was running P7 after his Honda engine broke with 21 laps remaining.

He was named Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year and also received the 2017 Fastest Rookie award for his four-lap qualifying speed.

Chilton, who was behind the wheel for Chip Ganassi Racing and finished fourth after starting P15, was pleased that Alonso did well.

“With the Indy500 I’ll be trying to win it,” the former Marussia F1 driver told Sportsmail. “This year was the race of my life. I was dead last behind Fernando Alonso in the pit-lane and then by lap 80 I was leading it. I now have the experience of leading it so if I’m leading there next year I’ll feel even more comfortable and hopefully we get it done.

“I’ve always rated Alonso as one of the best drivers on the F1 grid if not the best so I know he is incredibly talented and talented people learn quickly. But he did pick it up quicker than I thought he was going to.

“I know some people made comments about him making it look how easy it is. I think it is good for IndyCar that he didn’t win because it would have made us all look a bit stupid.

“But he said some really nice things about how challenging it was and how brave we all are and how he wants to go back to win. So he did a big favour for IndyCar by coming over and racing.”

Norris looking to learn to from Alonso

Date published: December 11 2017

Lando Norris is hoping to make the most of his opportunity when he races alongside Fernando Alonso at the Daytona 24 Hours in January.

The McLaren test and development driver will be getting some first-hand experience with Alonso after being named in the United Autosports line-up for next month’s race.

“I’ll get to know a lot more about the work ethic of a Formula 1 driver,” Norris told the McLaren F1 website.

“Even though he’ll be driving a different car, he’ll still want to do as well as he can.

“He’ll particularly want to beat his team-mates, and he’ll work as hard as he can to improve the car. Wherever I can, I’ll try and take onboard everything he does.”

Not only does Norris want to learn from the two-time World Champion, but he is also eager to see how he matches up to him in terms of pace.

“Obviously, I’d like to do well,” he said. “But I think it’s a more of good opportunity to learn from Fernando. I definitely don’t want to let that opportunity go to waste.

“But, at the same time, I’d like to prove what I can do against him, especially in qualifying.

“Daytona is a team game, so I realise that we’ll be sharing the seat and working together. But I’d like to think there’ll be a bit of a competition about who can do a better job in practice and qualifying.

“Whoever does the best has done the best, but it’s still a great opportunity to learn not from him.”

Norris is also making the step up from F3 to F2 in 2018 and is looking forward to getting stuck into what he describes as a “tough challenge”.

He added: “The aim is to win [the title] but I think that’s going to be quite tough.”

“I think top three would be more realistic. But I said that this year [in F3] and ended up winning!

“The other day, I said if I wanted to prove I were as good as Charles Leclerc or better, then I needed to win.

“But F2 is a much tougher category than F3, with a lot more variables.

“It’ll be tougher to win as many races as in the past, but Leclerc has proved he can do it.

“It’s hard to say until I get to the first race. But I’m confident in what the [Carlin] team can do.”

Prost: ‘Vandoorne even better than Alonso’

Date published: December 7 2017

The legendary Alain Prost has been very impressed with Stoffel Vandoorne’s development as McLaren and thinks he is operating at a higher level than Fernando Alonso.

Vandoorne had a tough start to life in Formula 1 but enjoyed a strong second half of the 2017 campaign which was highlighted by two back-to-back and career best finishes of P7.

Prost, who acts as Renault’s official advisor, thinks Vandoorne has built a strong foundation for himself and can go on to enjoy an even better in 2018 as McLaren join forces with the Enstone team.

“Everyone watched Vandoorne because, prior to coming into F1, he was recognised as one of the most exceptional youngsters for the future,” Prost told RTBF.

“He started at McLaren with reliability problems and never the same equipment as Alonso.

“But I think Vandoorne is now playing on the same level or even better than Alonso. He’s doing his development in a perfect way.

“Next year with a good engine, we’ll see if he’s efficient and reliable. Being on a team with Alonso is not easy, so Vandoorne has to stay calm, take his time, and I think there is no problem for him to be on top in years to come.”

Hamilton on why he won’t reunite with Alonso

Date published: December 5 2017

Lewis Hamilton says he’ll never partner Fernando Alonso as the two work like north poles of a magnet, creating “negative energy.”

Hamilton and Alonso teamed up back in 2007 at McLaren in what turned out to be a fractious relationship.

One a rookie, the other a double World Champion, both had something prove and butted heads on and off the track.

But while many in Formula 1 would like to see the two as team-mates once again, believing it would be the strongest pairing on the grid, Hamilton says it will never happen.

Asked whether he would consider ever partnering Alonso, he told German newspaper Stuttgarter Zeitung: “No. That will not happen.

“Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team boss] understands how the interpersonal dynamics of a team works.

“I would compare it to a magnet: when two north poles meet, they repel each other. You need a north and a south pole.

“Two of the same result in negative energy, as in 2007 between me and Alonso.”

Raikkonen sets pace, Alonso’s surprise crash

Date published: November 28 2017

The first day of the post-season test in Abu Dhabi is well underway with Robert Kubica racking up the laps at the Yas Marina circuit, Fernando Alonso hitting the tyre wall and Kimi Raikkonen setting the pace.

At the lunch break, Raikkonen topped the timesheets with a 1:37.768, a full 1.5 seconds clear of Romain Grosjean in second, with Nico Hulkenberg completing the top three.

All eyes were firmly on Kubica, though, as he closes in on a full Formula 1 return with Williams. The Pole completed 58 laps by the interval and placed himself sixth on the leaderboard with a fastest time of 1.41:296.

McLaren have been given permission to run two cars given that their tyre test in Brazil was cancelled, but Fernando Alonso’s running was disrupted when he crashed into the tyre barriers before continuing his running just before lunch.

Development driver Oliver Turvey is also in action for McLaren, with the Brit currently in seventh place and one spot ahead of Alonso. The other reserve drivers on show – Nikita Mazepin (Force India) and Sean Galael (Toro Rosso) – are P9 and P11 respectively.

World Champion Lewis Hamilton posted the fourth quickest time.

Day 1 timesheet (lunch)

1 Kimi Raikkonen     Ferrari     1:37.768,
2 Romain Grosjean     Haas     1:39.270
3 Nico Hulkenberg     Renault     1:39.803
4 Lewis Hamilton     Mercedes     1:40.017
5 Daniel Ricciardo     Red Bull     1:40.713
6 Robert Kubica     Williams     1:41.296
7 Oliver Turvey     McLaren     1:41.914
8 Fernando Alonso     McLaren     1:41.995
9 Nikita Mazepin     Force India     1:42.346
10 Marcus Ericsson     Sauber     1:43.286
11 Sean Gelael     Toro Rosso     1:45.622